Nature apps: Waiting for the revolution

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Abstract

Apps are small task-orientated programs with the potential to integrate the computational and sensing capacities of smartphones with the power of cloud computing, social networking, and crowdsourcing. They have the potential to transform how humans interact with nature, cause a step change in the quantity and resolution of biodiversity data, democratize access to environmental knowledge, and reinvigorate ways of enjoying nature. To assess the extent to which this potential is being exploited in relation to nature, we conducted an automated search of the Google Play Store using 96 nature-related terms. This returned data on ~36 304 apps, of which ~6301 were nature-themed. We found that few of these fully exploit the full range of capabilities inherent in the technology and/or have successfully captured the public imagination. Such breakthroughs will only be achieved by increasing the frequency and quality of collaboration between environmental scientists, information engineers, computer scientists, and interested publics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    dataset doi: 10.5072/bodleian:xp68kk22h.

  2. 2.

    http://www.batdetective.org.

  3. 3.

    http://publiclab.org/wiki/spectrometer.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Simon Abele for his help in designing, coding and executing the scrape and the editors of Ambio’s Digital Conservation Special issue and three anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments which improved earlier drafts of this article. RJL is funded by CNPQ, grant number 311412/2011–4.

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Correspondence to Paul Jepson.

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Jepson, P., Ladle, R.J. Nature apps: Waiting for the revolution. Ambio 44, 827–832 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-015-0712-2

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Keywords

  • Mobile apps
  • Applications
  • Citizen science
  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeography
  • Digital conservation